Epilepsy Talk

Epilepsy and Memory… | January 30, 2020

To say that lack of memory is a major worry for those of us with epilepsy is hardly a surprise.

In fact, it’s the number one concern.

Simply put, memory is our brain’s ability to store information and find it again later.

Chemical and electrical changes happen in your brain when new memories are made.

It’s a natural brain process that requires continuing attention and recording by parts of your brain.

Seizures interfere with your memory by interfering with attention or input of information.

Confusion often follows a seizure, and during this foggy time, new memory traces aren’t being laid down in the brain.

Tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures in which you lose consciousness can interfere with normal brain processes and disrupt the registration phase of short-term memory.

Sometimes longer term memories from the period prior to the seizure are lost as well, since these memories may have not yet being fully integrated into your brain’s memory system.

There are many different ways to classify how memory works.

Some people rely more on their verbal memory, remembering in terms of words or sounds, while others use their visual memory, relying on pictures or spatial relationships.

This can be for lots of reasons, including the type of seizures you have, the effects of medication, the effect of concentration or mood, lack of sleep, age, or the effect of epilepsy surgery.

Common everyday memory problems include:

  1. Being unable to come up with a word that we feel is “on the tip of our tongue”, apparently because of a verbal memory processing problem.
  2. Having to go back to check to see if something was done, such as turning off the stove, probably reflecting a failure to pay adequate attention at the time.
  3. Forgetting where we put something, probably a visual-spatial memory process problem.
  4. A verbal malfunction, where you know the words or names, but just can’t come up with them.
  5. Not remembering what has been said or been told is another.

The types of problems people have vary, and how serious a nuisance the problems are varies from person to person as well.

Any type of epileptic seizure could potentially affect your memory, either during or after a seizure.

If you have lots of seizures, memory problems might happen more often.

Some people have generalized seizures that affect all of the brain.

Others have focal seizures (sometimes called partial seizures) that affect only part of the brain.

Some people have both generalized and focal seizures.

If you have focal seizures, the way your seizures can affect your memory will depend on where in the brain your seizures happen.

The brain has two halves called hemispheres.

Each half has four parts called lobes: the occipital, parietal, temporal and frontal lobes.

Abnormalities in the temporal or frontal lobes of the brain are the most common reason for memory problems.

The left temporal lobe is important for verbal memories such as learning names and remembering facts for exams.

If you have seizures that start in this area, you may have problems remembering words, and get stuck mid-sentence.

The right temporal lobe is important for visual memories like remembering a person’s face or finding your way around a place.

The frontal lobe is important for prospective memory. Seizures in this area can cause problems remembering to do things in the future.

You may have difficulty remembering information straight after a seizure.

This is sometimes called post-ictal (after-seizure) confusion and it usually goes away once you have recovered.

If you have temporal lobe epilepsy you may have memory difficulties even if your seizures are well controlled.

That’s because the temporal lobe is responsible for creating memories.

Memory problems can sometimes happen due to the side-effects of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs).

Drowsiness or attention problems can affect your short-term memory, and may make it more difficult to learn and store new information.

You may be more likely to have memory problems if you take high doses or more than one type of AED.

Memory problems rarely disappear completely following drug changes.

But taking AEDs may help to improve your memory by making seizures less frequent or by stopping them completely.

Mood and concentration can affect your memory.

Often the way you feel can affect how well you are able to remember information.

Feeling confident or happy can affect the way the brain works by increasing your ability to concentrate and take in information.

If you feel anxious or stressed, it’s more likely that your brain will have difficulties at the “learning” stage.

Also, when you have trouble recalling information, worrying might make it harder to find the correct information.

For some people, lack of sleep can make them more likely to have seizure.

For others, it may be that seizures during the night cause them to be tired.

Research suggests that getting good quality sleep can help make your memory more stable and preserve long-term memory.

In addition, age itself can affect storing and recalling information.

This might be because of the way the brain changes physically, and also because the demands on our memory can change.

Managing different areas of your life such as work, family, study and social life, can be complicated and may increase the chance of you forgetting things.

Then there’s surgery…

Memory problems are frequently reported following surgery for epilepsy.

This is most common with surgery to the temporal lobe.

Memory assessments are carried out before and after surgery.

But even if the surgery stops your seizures from happening, you may have memory problems afterwards.

Assessments are usually done by neuropsychologists who can advise on ways to manage memory difficulties.

Here’s the official lingo:

Long-term memory is information stored over a long time.

Semantic memory is knowledge and facts about people, places and things.

Episodic memory is memory about a specific events or episodes in our lives.

Prospective memory is memory for doing things in the future.

Procedural memory is memory for skills and how to do things.

Short-term memory, which is also called “working memory” or “attention span”, is information that is only kept for the length of time you need to use it.

Getting the information into our memory is called the encoding and then the consolidation process, and the separate process of getting it out again is called “retrieval”.

Some people have a problem getting information into their memory in the first place, while others find the retrieval challenging, and may just need a cue or prompt before they are able to retrieve a memory.

Interestingly, epilepsy-linked memory loss worries more patients than doctors! (Now how would they feel if they were on the other side of the table?)

Patients and doctors agreed overall on three of the top five concerns:

  1. Having a seizure unexpectedly…
  2. The legal right or ability to drive…
  3. Seizures not being controlled.

Doctors ranked problems with medication side-effects as their second-highest concern.

And both groups agreed that having a seizure unexpectedly was the number one concern. 

“In a lot of cases, there was a fair amount of overlap, but the thing that the patients had on their radar screen that practitioners didn’t was the memory issue.

Memory was a concern for a larger percentage of the patients than we had anticipated,” said James McAuley, associate professor of pharmacy practice and neurology at Ohio State University and lead author of a study reported in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior.

“Indirectly, we address memory concerns in the clinic by addressing seizures. But we don’t typically sit down with a patient and say: Tell me about your memory.

This has heightened the awareness of our clinicians and should serve as a wake-up call to all practitioners treating people with epilepsy.

The mantra in our clinic is: No seizures, no side-effects, so uncontrolled seizures are seen as a medical concern by practitioners,” McAuley said.

“Patients tend to not want to have seizures because of the social stigma.

An interesting point in this context is that we believe in the clinic that if we can improve seizures, we will improve memory.”

Scientists plan to delve more deeply into this area of research by exploring what causes are behind memory problems that are reported.

“We’ll try to differentiate the cause of the memory problem and that will help guide us to either increase medication doses to get better control of seizures, decrease doses to eliminate side-effects, or use an antidepressant to address mood,” said McAuley.

“It’s quite a murky area and our goal is to learn more by dissecting the reasons for memory loss.”

I don’t think he’ll forget!

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Other articles of interest:

A neural device to restore memory

http://www.kurzweilai.net/a-neural-device-to-restore-memory?utm_source=KurzweilAI+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=934ee02a1c-UA-946742-1&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6de721fb33-934ee02a1c-282058694

9 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Mind

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/01/sharp-mind_n_5411762.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

Resources:

https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/how-epilepsy-can-affect-memory

https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/memory/difficulties

https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/memory?gclid=CjwKCAjwtvnbBRA5EiwAcRvnpoGRnETYeZYReJStup0DiWVcCsrKI7lzHcOyrHBeBKapnY8V2yiSbRoCsS4QAvD_BwE

https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/challenges-epilepsy/thinking-and-memory/memory-and-seizures

https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/challenges-epilepsy/thinking-and-memory/types-memory-problems

http://epilepsynl.com/memory-problems/

http://bcepilepsy.com/blog/the-relationship-between-memory-and-epilepsy

https://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNews/story?id=5567461&page=1

 


25 Comments »

  1. Goodmorning Phylis and group 😊. WOW!! I AM NOT TOO SURPRISED TO HEAR THIS!! To be honest with you I know I weaned myself (with my doctors help) off of antidepressants, but I have to admit after going through everything I have this past year due to life stage changes that was something I raised with my doctor and pharmacist. Mostly because I felt CLEAR HEADED when I did take the antidepressants. Then gradually after weaning myself other things began to pop up that none of us expected!!!!!!! Thank you for this Phylis I greatly appreciate it and you!! Please have a very good day today and please take care of yourself 😊🙏🏼🦅😇😊

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathy S.B — January 30, 2020 @ 1:37 PM

  2. How do you feel now, since you’ve weaned yourself off of the drugs?

    Clear headed or fuzzy?

    What began to “pop up”?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 30, 2020 @ 3:42 PM

    • Goodmorning Phylis 😊. I just started having focal seizures and it honestly felt like I was going to have a grandmal seizure!! They pulled me off of the lyrica because I was in a constant state of being on the brink of a grandmal seizure and completely numb or in shock. They put me back on the tegretol, Dilantin, clobazam, and trazodone. With ativan as a backup emergency medication. Apparently due to my final life stage change it’s making things a bit complicated for them to know what to do. They still haven’t received a report from the neurologist who prescribed me the toperimate either. So like a good portion of other epileptic women I’m now getting sent to a female neurologist to try and help figure out what is the next best route. In the meantime I did almost have to go back to my old full strength medications (kind of playing it day by day to see what works best for now). They thought everything would stop (for the same reason some do during this phase), but it’s not quite the case with me. I still feel a bit nervous or fidgety with a bit of numbness and tingling, but at least I’m not stuck in a 24/7 state of an almost like seizure “FOCAL SEIZURES” for 6 days. WOW!!!!!!! Lol I’m not sure if having my menstrual cycle or menopause is better now?? But I guess I sweat like crazy in my sleep and I do like yogurt and avocados now 😃. So I wait again but this time at least there’s movement. Also I did enquire about wether or not CBD is a better route to pursue? And because of the way my body is responding right now they would rather me stay with the medication because (according to the doctor) marijuana makes it difficult to know what’s going into my sensitive body!! Until they figure things out on their own first. And there is something in the works here in Canada regarding marijuana for epileptics, but it hasn’t finished the testing and been approved by health Canada yet.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Kathy S.B — January 31, 2020 @ 8:27 AM

      • I feel so bad for you Kathy. You must be so frustrated.

        One step forward, three steps back. I hope a female neuro will help.

        (And maybe an endocrinologist?)

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 31, 2020 @ 4:01 PM

      • Don’t feel bad Phylis 😊. I agree about the female neurologist and endocrinologist (which I will TRY AND PUSH FOR!! 🙏🏼🦅😇🙏🏼. I must admit it is a bit challenging right now, but WITH LOTS OF FAITH AND PRAYER AND PROPER DOCTORS, NEUROLOGISTS, ENDOCRINOLOGISTS THIS WILL GET FIGURED OUT!! I PROMISE!! Thank you SO MUCH FOR YOUR COMPASSIONATE LOVING AND CARING CONCERN PHYLIS AND YOUR GROUP!!!!!!! IT REALLY HELPS TO KNOW I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE!! 😊🙏🏼🦅😇😘😘😘😘😘

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Kathy S.B — January 31, 2020 @ 6:00 PM

      • Kathy, It sounds like you’re having menopausal night sweats, by the way.

        I have them too. Not fun. And I’m past menopause.

        (Be careful of what you wish for???)

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 31, 2020 @ 6:29 PM

      • Yes YOUR RIGHT!! Thank you for the reminder Phylis 😊. It’s just nice to know I am NOT THE ONLY ONE GOING THROUGH THIS!!!!!!! But on the flip side or positive note I AM AT THIS MOMENT GOING TO PURCHASE MY IWATCH!!!!!!! I AM SO EXCITED I CAN’T WAIT!!!!!!! 😃😃😃😃😃😃😃🙏🏼🙏🏼🦅🦅😇😇💗. PLEASE EVERYONE HELP EDUCATE FAMILY/FRIENDS/CO-WORKERS/PEERS AND EVERYONE THAT TO PLEASE LEARN ABOUT SUDEP AND THE MOST BIGGEST THANK YOU IN THE WHOLE UNIVERSE FATHER THAN THE NEW PLANET PAST PLUTO TO THE “DANNY DID FOUNDATION” FOR GIVING MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS AND MYSELF HOPE!!!!!!! Thank you Phylis and PLEASE KNOW I WILL ALWAYS BE GRATEFUL FOR YOU AND YOU WHOLE ONLINE GROUP!!!!!!! 🙏🏼🦅😇😘💕. I wish there was a way to send you a picture, but I apologize I don’t know how too!!!!!!! 😃🙏🏼🦅😇💕💕💕💕💕

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Kathy S.B — January 31, 2020 @ 6:44 PM

      • Embrace — A Seizure Smartwatch With Style

        https://epilepsytalk.com/2017/04/06/embrace-a-seizure-smartwatch-with-style/

        The Embrace2 – Newly Cleared by the FDA – with New Advantages for You

        https://epilepsytalk.com/2019/03/05/the-embrace2-newly-approved-by-the-fda-with-new-advantages-for-you/

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 31, 2020 @ 6:59 PM

      • I guess because I have an IPhone it’s going to have to be an IWatch with GPS and the SEIZURE APP to match my cellphone. Either way I am JUST SIMPLY GRATEFUL FOR A CHANCE TO TRY AND HELP MYSELF AND WHEN I FEEL BACK TI PAR HOPEFULLY OTHERS!!!!!!! Lol don’t be surprised if you get a message back in ALL OF MY EXCITEMENT!! 😃😃😃😃😃😃😃😃

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Kathy S.B — January 31, 2020 @ 7:03 PM

      • SeizAlarm — Apple’s New Seizure Detector — Help is Always Just a Button Press Away

        https://epilepsytalk.com/2018/02/10/seizalarm-apples-new-seizure-detector-help-is-always-just-a-button-press-away/

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 31, 2020 @ 7:09 PM

      • OH MY GOD/GRANDMA/GREAT GRANDPARENTS/GREAT AUNTIES AND UNCLES I CAN’T BELIEVE THERE ARE ANGELS IN THIS UNIVERSE THAT LOVE EVERY EPILEPTIC SO MUCH THEY HELP THEM LIKE THIS!!!!!!! I AM VERY VERY HUMBLED RIGHT NOW! Please everyone SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SUDEP AND THE “DANNY DID FOUNDATION” THEIR ANGELS I SWEAR!!!!!!! 🙏🏼🙏🏼🦅🦅😇😇🙏🏼🙏🏼💕💕💕💕💕💕💕🦅🦅😇🙏🏼💕

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Kathy S.B — January 31, 2020 @ 8:56 PM

      • SUDEP — Who’s at Risk?

        https://epilepsytalk.com/2018/08/18/sudep-whos-at-risk/

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 1, 2020 @ 3:53 PM

      • This in all honesty a REAL EYE OPENER TO MY HUSBAND, CHILDREN, FAMILY AND FRIENDS!!!!!!! Sometimes we may appear to brilliant shiny mountains in the outside, BUT EVEN WE CAN CRUMBLE!! 😘

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Kathy S.B — February 1, 2020 @ 8:59 PM

      • IT IS THE SWEATING!!!!!!! ALL HOURS OF THE DAY!! And as much as I TRY I CAN NOT HELP OR STOP IT AT ALL!!!!!!! Talk about WREAKING HAVOC 24/7 365 DAYS A YEAR ON MY BODY!!!!!!! Wow. Thank you Phylis 😘. P.S. my poor husband and children claim I AM FREEZING THEM OUT OF OUR HOUSE!!!!!!! 😔😉

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Kathy S.B — February 1, 2020 @ 9:02 PM

    • It just seemed to me maybe it kind of got worse or progressed once I weaned myself off of the antidepressants I was on. Maybe I’m not sure yet. However I truly never felt as though I required them anymore and for some reason still don’t (in a way). But then again right now who knows?! I did have to go back into the full strength tegretol Cr 1600ms/daily, Dilantin 400mgs/daily and the clobazam 20mgs/daily. Until I can get my footing straight and confident once again. I won’t lie I am a bit discouraged and disappointed, but at least I’m still here and now I am finally HOPEFULLY BEING TAKE. SERIOUSLY!!!!!!! 😘

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Kathy S.B — January 31, 2020 @ 6:06 PM

  3. Good job here.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Flower Roberts — January 30, 2020 @ 4:42 PM

  4. I have memory problems, and it does affect my life. I have a hard time @ work. My supervisor doesn’t understand what i go through having epilepsy, even though i have tried to explain it to her. Do you have any suggestions as to what i can do to let her,as well as others know how i deal with epilepsy on a daily basis.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Glenda Day — January 31, 2020 @ 3:36 PM


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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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